Connecting With Hunter Thompson

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Hunter Thompson is a songwriter and worship leader with Bethel Music.  He is known for his crafted lyrics and soundscapes that explore honest topics and articulate journeying with God in a fresh way.  Hunter will be leading the Band Rehearsal Workshop at WorshipU On Campus where he coaches students on how to play with excellence in rehearsals within a band setting.  Read below as he answers students’ questions in our latest “Ask Me Anything” event on the discussion board and enjoy the video of his live acoustic performance of “Maranatha” from the Swan Song Album.

My journey with the Lord and my life as a musician go hand in hand. I grew up playing music, but didn’t start singing until I was 18, when I got saved. I was the most musical out of all of my friends so I started leading worship.  

When I moved to Redding in 2009, I attended the school of ministry and auditioned for the worship team but didn’t make the cut. This led me into a season of life where I was alone in my room, playing guitar a lot. So I started creating music and found myself writing songs, mainly because I was spending so much time leading myself in worship. The Lord walked me through that season, teaching me how to worship and write songs just for Him. Leading a crowd in worship and writing music for others came later.

At the time, I didn’t necessarily feel called to music as a vocation. I personally believe that music is partly a calling and largely a choice. I haven’t heard many life stories from musicians that were straightforward and easy, but I’ve found it to be a rewarding journey, one where I’m constantly growing and being shaped by the Lord. For now, my passions are simply doing daily life with Him, investing in deep friendships, and stewarding my gifts.

I actually started out on drums and for me, the relationship between worship leader and drummer is the most important one in the band. I think that drummers need to find a good balance in having the confidence to step out musically whilst maintaining a high attentiveness to the leader’s direction. In my opinion, the drummer is next in line to the leader and co-leader on stage. They have the potential to facilitate a moment to the same degree that a worship leader does. I can recall numerous sets that were either made or not by the drummer’s choices.

As a leader, supporting my co-leaders has become a high priority. I’ve learned to place a lot of value on setting my band and co-leader up for success and I feel like I’ve grown leaps and bounds in this. When I first started leading worship, it was really obvious from the expression on my face whenever a band member made a mistake. Now I try to keep my emotions reigned in and stay more aware of what’s going on around me. There’s a lot of vertical worship happening during a set, but I’ve found it to be mainly horizontal, gathering and leading everyone else in their response to the Lord.

 Investing in your connections with people is really important. Personally, I can have a tendency to lean towards loneliness, so it’s important for me to surround myself with people who don’t take life too seriously. When I sense that wave of loneliness coming on, I make sure not to isolate myself and I laugh as much as I can. I’ve found laughter to be really healing for me and I’ve learned not to let my emotions get the best of me.

I’m constantly songwriting. There’s always something I can find that will trigger my inspiration. Sometimes, my process involves a particular sentence or theme that I want to describe. Most of the time however, I’m digging for new verbiage and new ways to describe a common or relatable theme. On a practical level, I might simply write down a word that I like and go from there. I’m not necessarily saying new things, but I’m trying to say them from a different angle that might inspire people. 

Mainly, I write what I would like the church to sing. I think of things that compel me as an individual and also what I would like to see more of in my congregation. As for melodies, I’m constantly listening to inspiring melodies and lyrics and intentionally filling my head with a range of musical styles. I try to search out new worship music to stay challenged and inspired. My greatest influences are actually singer-songwriters, people who sing their own songs, like Ben Gibbard and David Bowie, for example. I taught myself how to fingerpick by listening to bands like James Taylor and Iron and Wine, and I learned as many of their songs as I could. But ever since I started singing, my absolute favorite worship leader has always been Cory Asbury.

Redding is a very transient place to live. Last year, I went through a season where most of the close friends I’d made over the past five years were all moving away. I had a conversation with one of my dearest friends whilst working on my album and he told me that this project was “our swansong.” That concept was really beautiful to me. I pondered that perspective and decided that if I were to sing just one more worship song to the Lord, I would want it to be the most honest and true song that I could sing.